Pierre Cléroux

Pierre Cléroux

Province’s economic growth leads country

Pierre Cléroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, speaks to Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce

It’s a joke that’s all the rage among Canadian economists.

“There are three kinds of economists: the one who can count and the one who cannot.”

The gag garnered some laughs for Pierre Cléroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), who was otherwise serious and personable during a 35-minute luncheon presentation to close to 50 guests of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce at the Prestige Hotel Tuesday.

Cléroux, appointed BDC’s chief economist in 2012, told guests that B.C.’s economy is doing very well, and has been doing great for three years.

The province’s economic growth in 2016 is estimated to be 2.8 per cent.

“This is the highest economic growth in the country,” said Cléroux.

The growth, he said, has helped create 55,000 new jobs in the last 12 months, also the highest rate in Canada, and retail sales have been increasing by 6.6 per cent over the last year.

“The B.C. economy is performing very well,” said Cléroux. “For the third year in a row, it’s the best in the country. We believe the growth will continue to be strong.”

One reason for that, said Cléroux, is the strong economy south of the border which means demand for B.C. and Canadian products.

“Our dollar is healthy so our exports are performing well,” he said. “Tourism is up. Our lumber exports are increasing rapidly. We have all the reason to be confident and invest in our businesses.”

Compared to other developed countries when it comes to exports, Canada is ranked middle of the pack of about 30 nations.

“We’re not performing poorly,” said Cléroux. “But we have a lot of potential to increase our standing.”

Cléroux opened up his presentation talking about productivity, and introduced a new tool available on his organization’s website (www.bdc.ca) that measures  productivity for businesses and compares them to other Canadian businesses in the same industry.

Against the world, he said, Canada has a way to go to catch up against productive nations like Germany, France and the U.K.

“The reason is the same is our adoption of technology in Canada is a little bit left behind,” he said.

As an example, Cléroux said 90 per cent of Canadians are online, 50 per cent of Canadians are buying goods online, and 92 per cent of millennials (aged 16 to 36) are buying objects on their Smartphones.

On the other side of that, he said, while Canada may be very connected, only 15 per cent of small businesses are selling online, and only 40 per cent of small-to-mid-size businesses have a website.

“On one side, consumers are really onliine to buy online and look online to purchase goods and services, but our businesses are not there,” said Cléroux.

The BDC is Canada’s only financial institution dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs.

Its mission is to help create and develop strong Canadian businesses through financing, advisory services and indirect financing.